What’s more powerful than Qualcommn’s midrange Snapdragon 660 processor, but not quite as powerful as the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 845 chip found in flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S9? The answer is apparently Qualcomm’s newest mobile processor, the Snapdragon 710, and the first chip in the company’s better-than-midrange Snapdragon 700 series that it announced earlier this year.
Qualcomm is holding to the same promises with the 710 that it first touted when it announced the line back in February. That includes twice the AI performance compared to the Snapdragon 660, which Qualcomm says should offer improvements in a wide range of applications from voice-based user interfaces to photography and biometrics. Other parts, like the X15 LTE modem or Spectra 250 image processor, are stepped down versions of the more powerful X20 modem and Spectra 280 processor from the 800 line of chips.
So the X15 modem, for example, won’t offer the gigabit LTE speeds that the X20 is capable of, but it will offer faster speeds than the X12 modem from the 600 series, with up to 800 Mbps downloads and improved signal strength. It’s a similar story on the media side — you won’t see all the improvements from the 800 series chips, but there is 10-bit color support (up from 8-bit on the 600 series). Snapdragon 710 phones will also be the first Qualcomm chips to support playback of 4K HDR video outside of the company’s flagship offerings.
The Snapdragon 710 is built on a 10nm architecture. With that, Qualcomm is promising an overall 20 percent performance boost over the Snapdragon 660, along with dramatic reductions to power consumption, especially while watching videos or playing games.
The end result is an interesting mix of features — some improvements on the 600 series, some trickled down from the 800 series line — for something that isn’t quite a flagship chip, but is otherwise more powerful than the existing midrange options previously offered until now. It’s actually a bit of a weird niche for Qualcomm to be targeting, given that there doesn’t really seem to be mobile hardware that’s in desperate need a semi-premium chip of this variety.
But it’s possible that the Snapdragon 710 is more of an international play for Qualcomm, designed for markets where midrange Android phones from companies like Xiaomi and Vivo lead the pack, as opposed to the US where expensive flagship phones are pretty much the only game in town. From that perspective, offering more powerful upgrades to midrange Android phones at a cheaper price point could see success in a way that phones like the Galaxy S9 or Pixel 2 haven’t.
We won’t have long to wait to find out, either — Qualcomm is promising the first phones with the Snapdragon 710 should be out sometime in the second quarter of 2018.